The variety of soft plastic baits for bass is mind boggling. The choices available just in worms alone, are enough to cause confusion with the novice angler, and hours of debate among the more experienced. What size? color?, straight tail? curly tail?, salt or no salt?; what rig to use them on, drop-shot? Carolina rigged?, weightless?, when are the best times to use each one? Then add in the endless variety of lizards, grubs, jerkbaits, freakbaits, tubes, and creatures, and you end up with more questions than answers. In the following article I will try to list the most effective plastic baits and presentations that catch not only numbers, but big bass as well, whether it is in a lake, pond or river, just about anywhere in the country. There will always be a new type of bait that one person or the other claims is better than the others, but the following baits and techniques will cover most any situation that you are likely to encounter.
The original artificial worm manufactured by Nick Creme, in 1949, was a standard straight tailed worm, but it spawned generations of worm companies and hundreds of soft plastic lure designs that are the mainstay of modern bass fishing.
Straight tailed worms are just that–straight, with no bends or kinks in the middle, no curly tails, paddle tails, no air pockets, no flotation, nothing special at all, just a worm. Regardless of their plain appearance, many times straight tailed worms are much more effective than other fancier styles. This was proven to us first hand one day in a New York tournament. The bass absolutely refused to hit any other style of worm except a 6 inch straight tail in black, with a tiny bit of blue fleck in it. If you didn’t have that particular style of worm, you were out of the money that day. Straight tailed worms are often at their best when bass are suspicious of anything out of the ordinary, such as in highly pressured tournament lakes. Many times in these situations the bass are put off by a curly tail waving in the current. But the opposite can be true for the same fish, in the same lake, when they are on their beds during the spawn. Many times, the movement of a curly tail will cause the extra enticement you need to catch them. Plastic worms aren’t at their best in cold water, but then nothing is. When the water is cold, bass will feed only occasionally, and whether it is spring, fall, or winter, the slow, slightly twitchy retrieve with a straight tail worm will work wonders. But the key to this is working the worm slowly, only twitching it occasionally, allowing the worm to stay in the strike zone as long as possible, where the sluggish bass will notice, and possibly hit it.
These worms also work well for bedding bass, but don’t hesitate to put on a small curly tail worm if the bass won’t pick up the straight tail. The fact that most straight tail worms are not floating models can be an advantage. While floating worms have a lot to offer in terms of waving around just off the bottom, bass are in the habit of searching and feeding off the bottom. Eels, worms, crayfish, nymphs, frogs, and other prey are often found there. Smallmouth in particular make a habit of routing in the rocks and gravel to find a meal. Plastic worms, rigged weedless, and worked slowly across the bottom, look more like natural prey trying to hide and escape than something floating off the bottom and waving around.
To accomplish this, the standard Texas rig with a bullet weight is best. The Texas rig keeps the worm from getting hung up, and the weight gets the worm to the bottom and keeps it there. The Carolina rig is another option for the straight tail worm. This type of rig allows for a deeper, slower, even retrieve. The straight tail worm, and even retrieve, make this rig resemble an eel, although in smaller sizes, the bass may see it as a slim baitfish, or even a large dragonfly nymph.
We found that these straight tail worms are excellent for fishing in the river. We cast them across the current, using a high rod technique, to minimize drag and allow the worm to drift with the current. Often a little twitch will provoke a strike, but the twitch should be subtle, just enough to move the worm a little bit. We also cast the worm straight upstream, which works very well in the rivers since they require less weight to sink naturally and can be fished dead with the current to resemble a dead or dying shad or other baitfish. Both Texas and exposed hook riggings work, but the Texas seems to be the best if there are any snags or it is a rough, rocky bottom. Tackle is important when fishing straight tail worms, since much of the fishing depends on slow techniques. I like to use a real sensitive rod, such as a G. Loomis, with the reel spooled with a sensitive line, such as Stren Sensor, or any other sensitive line. Using an outfit like this makes it easier to detect strikes, but you should always maintain contact with the worm, even when Deadsticking it. I like to use a small weight to accomplish this. Cross-stream casts in the current will usually maintain some tension, but upstream casts require a retrieve as fast as the current to keep slack out of the line and make sure that you detect all the strikes.
Straight tail worms are also great for deep jigging. The jigging action makes the worm seem alive without a curly tail waving around in the water. Again, the key here is sensitive tackle, as the bass will often hit the worm on the fall. Straight tail worms are serious bass takers. If a bass follows another type of worm but doesn’t take it, then try a straight stick of a worm. They may not look like much, but can take serious limits of bass when they are off their normal feed. water soluble bag manufacturers